How to Increase Classroom Transparency
More than ever, teachers are called to justify their practice and their decision-making inside the classroom. Whether it is from administrators, parents, or the public, today’s teachers feel the pressure that comes from an increased professional scrutiny. It doesn’t help that the public perception of the teaching profession is increasingly shaped by negative media coverage.
Failing to bear this weight can lead to frustration, decreased job satisfaction, and even full-blown burnout.
What this means is that it falls to teachers to take the reins to close the gap between the perceptions and realities of what is happening in our respective classrooms. Designing classroom structures and workflows that are more transparent helps demonstrate to stakeholders just how much great, innovative work is taking place in the service of student growth.
Be Proactive Instead of Reactive
Creating a transparent classroom environment requires effort. If done well, however, the initial investment of time and energy can remove the stress that comes with surprise calls to justify your practice later.
Start with clearly defined policies and expectations. Remove the mystery behind things like classroom management, course objectives, assessment styles, and grading by sharing your guidelines and sticking to them. Just this simple proactive step alone can save a teacher from frustrating semantic arguments down the road.
Adding a transparent workflow into the mix helps lift the curtain even further. Using a regularly updated website or online course system like Google Classroom or Edmodo. will help give parents a one-stop-shop for everything related to life in your class. Having all the course resources, assignments, rubrics, due dates, and grades readily available keeps the entire academic process out in the open while limiting both confusion and misunderstandings.
Perhaps most importantly, make it a point to get the information about your class into the hands of the relevant stakeholders before they come to you asking for them. Use a multi-pronged approach with print materials, phone calls, and online communication – whatever it takes to get the information out! This type of initiative can create a positive initial contact, show that you value familial involvement, and demonstrate your overall commitment to transparency.
Being proactive in these ways can make the early months of school more action-packed, but it will likely be what makes the rest of your year go a lot more smoothly!
Streamlining Parental Involvement
Having all of your policies and expectations clearly outlined will do you no good if parents and guardians cannot figure out how to access them when they need them. Should there be a question or concern, parents will come directly to you rather than turn to resources they don’t understand how to navigate.
Consider how many different places you are asking parents and other stakeholders to go for the information about your class. If you are expecting parents to keep a list of multiple logins and passwords to access all of your course materials, know that they probably won’t. Conversely, keeping your course access as consolidated and user-friendly as possible helps improve the likelihood parents will actually use your provided resources.
Another important consideration is the degree to which your students’ families can access technology reliably. A wonderful website is of no use to a family that struggles to get online. It is for that reason that “analog” check-ins through notes home, phone calls, and even classroom newsletters should remain part of the standard classroom communication practice.
Consolidating your policies, communications, and workflows into as few channels as possible will help parents and other stakeholders get onboard and stay in the loop with your classroom practice.
Bring Colleagues and Administrators Onboard
Transparency can yield benefits beyond forging and maintaining relationships with parents. Providing ways for your supervisors and peers to access the goings on of your classroom can prove beneficial as well.
Invite fellow staff members into your classroom (either physically or digitally), to create pathways for support, collaboration, and understanding.
On a peer-to-peer level, teachers can gain a lot from experiencing each other’s classroom environments and workflows. Forging relationships across curricula and grade levels can lead to more standardized practices and shared avenues for transparency. This can be particularly beneficial to parents as their children transition is between multiple classes or from year to year.
Similarly, transparency can help improve understanding between teachers and administrators. Don’t let the administrators be the ones that always come to you for information about your practices. Share with them the same resources and transparency that you share with parents. Consider inviting administrators to your room for informal feedback opportunities rather than limiting their visits to formal observations. These steps can both boost an administrator’s awareness of the good work that you do while also enable them to better support you in a time of need.
No one likes to have his or her professionalism challenged. For great teachers, allowing stakeholders to get a good look at the entire scope of your efforts is an effective way to limit surprise frustrations and repeated calls to justify your practice.
Sheldon Soper is a New Jersey middle school teacher with over a decade of classroom experience teaching students to read, write, and problem-solve across multiple grade levels. He holds teaching certifications in English, Social Studies, and Elementary Education as well as Bachelor's and Master's degrees in the field of education. In addition to his teaching career, Sheldon is also a content writer for a variety of education, technology, and parenting websites. You can follow Sheldon on Twitter @SoperWritings and on his blog